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National Baseball Congress changes Kan. tournament

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The city of Wichita and National Baseball Congress officials are hopeful that a new format, more promotions and television exposure will help stabilize a financially struggling amateur baseball tournament.

The changes unveiled Thursday were in response to an audit released two weeks ago that found the NBC World Series was $280,000 in debt and its management was two years behind on lease payments for Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

The tournament, which began as a semi-professional summer tournament and attracted such players as Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, has been in Wichita since 1935. The city has owned it since 2007 and the Wichita Wingnuts, an Independent League team, manages the tournament.

For many years, the NBC tournament showcased college and high school stars, but in recent years has featured only college players.

"The city of Wichita is committed to the future of the National Baseball Congress World Series," Mayor Carl Brewer said Thursday at a news conference at Go Wichita, the city's convention and visitor's bureau and one of the new tournament partners.

"Our ownership funds the tournament and the Wingnuts. It's been tough on them too for the last five years too," said Wingnuts president Josh Robertson. "We're working with the city to make everything right and move forward with the tournament."

This year's tournament, which runs from July 26 to Aug. 10, will start with a 16-team qualifier during the first week. The second week, called "Championship Week," will pit the top two teams from the qualifier against champions from the 10 most successful leagues in the last 10 years, two at-large clubs and the previous summer's national champion and runner-up.

The tournament's compensation pool will increase from $62,200 to $65,300 and the two teams that advance to Championship Week will earn $5,000 each. The new format also is intended to reduce team costs.

Fans also will see changes, including lower ticket prices; buyout nights, which provide fans free general admission vouchers to specific tournament dates; and a new promotional schedule.

City Manager Robert Layton said discussions have already begun about finding a cable sports network to broadcast the tournament nationwide, either live or on tape-delay.